PBS Explores the Lives of the First Americans During American Indian Heritage Month

Posted by PBS Publicity on

Arlington, VA  October 20, 2006 - PBS salutes American Indian Heritage, traditionally celebrated during the month of November, with both new programs and repeats of some of the popular programs that explore the lives and culture of the first Americans. Native-American culture, too often invisible both on television and in American society at large, is at a crossroads, and PBS' special programming provides a provocative and surprising look at how communities are changing, adapting and enduring.

Review copies of programs available upon request. Artwork and additional information available on PBS PressRoom (www.pbs.org/pressroom).



November 2006 (check local listings)

A new two-part series that goes inside modern Native-American communities to reveal a diverse people working to revitalize their culture while improving the social, physical and spiritual health of their people. Told with wonder, humanity and insight, INDIAN COUNTRY DIARIES is a must-see 'State of the Union' report from modern Native America.

How has new-found casino wealth changed the fortunes of Native Americans? How are tribes coping with the influx of Indian wannabes, eager for a piece of the pie? How can Native American parents teach their children tribal history when they weren't taught it themselves? Can Christianity and traditional Native-American spiritual beliefs co-exist? Is there any perfect middle ground between assimilation and isolation? INDIAN COUNTRY DIARIES explores how these issues and many more are being played out in Native-American communities in both urban and reservation settings.

In Part One, 'A Seat at the Drum,' journalist Mark Anthony Rolo sets out to learn how Native Americans in Los Angeles preserve a tribal identity, survive economically and cope with the pressures of a federal relocation program and assimilation in a multicultural metropolis. Part Two, 'Spiral of Fire,' takes author LeAnne Howe to the North Carolina homeland of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to discover how their fusion of tourism, cultural preservation and spirituality is working to insure their tribe's vitality in the 21st century.


November 2006 (check local listings)

This five-part series offers viewers a culinary celebration of America's bounty, combining Native-American history and culture with delicious, healthy recipes inspired by indigenous foods. Much more than simply a cooking series, it's a cultural adventure across the American landscape, where viewers meet Native-American peoples, see their breathtaking environs, learn their history and traditions, and, best of all, sample their cuisine. Loretta Barrett Oden, a renowned Native-American chef, food historian and lecturer, and proud woman of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, hosts the series. With her infectious humor and unstoppable enthusiasm, Loretta travels around the country to immerse herself in the lives and traditions of numerous Native-American tribes. Producers: Connecticut Public Television and Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT) in association with Resolution Pictures.

"Gulf Coast Originals" - More than 6,000 years before the Acadian French (today's Cajuns) arrived in Louisiana, there were native peoples living and fishing in Louisiana's bayou country. A historical tour of this Gulf Coast region provides a lesson about native influences on Cajun cooking. Loretta cooks sassafras shrimp gumbo and spicy alligator sauce piquant.

"Cuisine of the Desert Southwest" - Most people think of Mexican food when they think of the cuisine of the southwest, but native foods in their traditional form are an exciting way of expressing this beautiful and rugged region of the country. Loretta joins the Tohono O'odham tribe of Arizona for the annual three-day harvest of saguaro cactus fruit. She also joins Mildred Manuel to prepare wild spinach with cholla buds and chiltepine peppers, tapary beans with ribs, ash bread (slow-cooked in the ashes of a mesquite fire) and a sweet, refreshing drink, mesquite juice.

"Return of the Buffalo" - There is a movement among native tribes to bring the buffalo back to the Great Plains to "promote cultural enhancement, spiritual revitalization, ecological restoration and economic development." Loretta travels to the buffalo range of Fred Dubray on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota to learn more. Wasna (sun-dried bison with chokecherries), wojape (chokecherry soup) and grilled bison tenderloin with a sage-chokecherry jus are on the menu for this exciting show.

"Bounty of the River's Edge" - The people of the Yurok tribe live off the bounty of the Pacific Coast on the banks of California's Klamath River, harvesting salmon, shellfish, seaweed and edible wild greens as well as acorns that are ground and cooked in tightly woven handmade baskets. Loretta joins her Yurok friends for a feast of alderwood-smoked salmon, dried sirfish and eels, served with an exceptional sturgeon egg bread.

"Food Upon the Water" - Wild rice 'manoomin' is still harvested the traditional way by the Anishanabe, or Ojibwe, people of the Great Lakes region. Ricers and their families take canoes into the fields and hand-harvest the rice. After participating in the harvest, Loretta helps to prepare Winona LaDuke's favorite wild rice and maple syrup cake, which accompanies a lakeside first rice feast of buffalo, wild rice and cranberry-stuffed acorn squash, buffalo stew and ruby-red swamp tea.



November 2006 (check local listings)

Beaver C'Bearing and his fellow Chiefs want to bring the high school state basketball championship trophy back to Wyoming's Wind River Indian Reservation and make their people proud, but while struggling through his senior year, he is forced to re-evaluate the importance of basketball. Following two years in the lives of Beaver and his teammates, "Chiefs" explores what it means to grow up Native American at the turn of the 21st century. Produced by Donna Dewey.


November 2006 (check local listings)

The teenage Sacagawea, who, with her infant son, accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition, is an American historical icon. Although very little is known about her, Sacagawea's story captivated the nation. She has become one of the most honored heroines in American history; countless statues were erected in her name, and more mountains and lakes named for her than any other North American woman. Using the rich oral history of the Shoshoni, Hidatsa and Nez Perce tribes and dramatic re-enactments and scenes of the wild areas in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming and Oregon, this program provides both the historical account of Sacagawea and the legends told about her. Producer: Idaho Public Television and Idanha Films.


November 2006 (check local listings)

Chaco Canyon, located in northwest New Mexico, is perhaps the only site in the world constructed in an elaborate pattern that mirrors the yearly cycle of the sun and the 19-year cycle of the moon. How did an ancient civilization, with no known written language, arrange its buildings into a virtual celestial calendar, spanning an area roughly the size of Ireland? Why did this society, ancestors of today's Pueblo Indians, choose to establish the center of their world in the middle of such an arid, barren land? And why, after constructing buildings the size of the Roman Coliseum, did these same people deliberately seal them and abruptly leave? These enigmas have puzzled archaeologists for centuries. This program presents substantial evidence that the Chacoan people expressed a complex solar and lunar cosmology in their magnificent architecture. The discoveries documented in the film have transformed scientific understanding of this site, one of the most elaborate and mysterious of ancient Native-American ruins, and are revolutionizing perceptions of the Chacoan civilization. Robert Redford narrates. Producer: The Solstice Project.


November 2006

Fresh out of college, Jerry Richardson accepts the challenge to mold a group of shy young women in the small Navajo community of Shiprock, New Mexico, into fighters on the basketball court. As the girls struggle to overcome prejudice and self-doubt, Coach Richardson draws a parallel with his own experience growing up African American in the forced-integration of the South, forging a bond that allows coach and team to rise above the odds and emerge as champions. Over 10 years in the making, ROCKS WITH WINGS is a story of winning and losing, of struggling with race, heritage and societal expectations for the players, their coach and the entire Navajo community. Producer: Oregon Public Broadcasting and Shiprock Productions.


November 2006 (check local listings)

Australian aboriginal actress/playwright Ningali Lawford and American-Indian performance artist James Luna meet through a series of digital video links to share their lives and work, and explore how each uses humor and storytelling to confront the stereotypes of native people in their own countries. Co-producers: Yerosha Productions, Inc., New York, and Nick Torrens Film Productions, Sydney.

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Cara White